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Absolute Balance

The Magic of Being Quantum

 

Sunday
May182008

An Interview with Mark Townsend

 By Colin Whitby

townsendinterview.jpgWhen I read Mark’s latest book ‘The Wizard’s Gift’ I thought it would be great to interview him to find out a little more about how the book came about. It was Mark’s background that I found most interesting, here was someone who is both a Christian Priest and a member of the Magic Circle.

I really enjoyed our conversation, I hope you will too.

 

Colin - So Mark, how did you find yourself moving towards things Magical?

Mark – It goes back a long time, I think I was about 8 or 9 when I first became interested in the magical and the unknown. This would include the likes of Arthur C Clarke and the explorations into the unexplained as well as how to perform magic tricks.

I have always seen the two connected in some way, for example some of the ancient cultures use a certain amount of flamboyant trickery, not to delude or deceive audiences, but to awaken the magic within them. It was quite common in some native cultures to use fire illusions, for example, to create that magical environment to break down the rational mind.

So for quite a number of years I collected books about the unknown and at the same time explored how to do magic in the trickery sense.

Colin – At what point did you move towards becoming a priest?

Mark - I was about 18 years old when I became involved with the Church, first of all the Pentecostal Church, which in a way is a very magical church where there is a lot of emphasis on the supernatural. However any talk of ‘magic’ was very taboo, so I put that to one side for quite a few years.

I went to Israel for about 4 months which was both a frightening place to be but also some of the places I visited were to me very magical, and it had a profound impact on me.

When I came back I could not fit back into the Pentecostal Church so I eventually moved into the Church of England where they were a little more liberal. I found some of the more magical elements like I’d experienced in the Holy Land. I discovered traditions within the more ancient forms of Christianity which were all to do with creating the same sort environments that an illusionist tries to create – symbols that evoke wonder, awe and mystery. I loved the way you could go to a service and did not need to understand it as it was so symbolic, using all of the senses.

I then went on to theological college and that is when the conjuring magic came back into my life. I thought that if I became ordained I would need some kind of hobby, and so when I came back to Hereford I joined the local magic club. I do everything 110% and so within a few months I became a member of some of the bigger magic societies and eventually the magic circle.

When I was finally ordained I very quickly became know as the conjuring curate because I would use a lot of magical illusions in the talks I did. In those days, about 10 years ago, it was very safe to carry out illusionary magic, and I was very careful not to venture into any other kind of magic, where I would most likely be misunderstood.

Colin – So what kind of magic would you perform in the church?

Mark - A lot of the magic I performed would be standard illusions with great story lines, although I might be a bit embarrassed to go back and do them now, it was part of my development at the time.

I then made a big change and moved to (Leominster which is where I now live) and became the Vicar of the huge Priory Church. It was a pretty tough time. While the town’s people took to me (and my eccentricities) wonderfully, the expectations from the Church were impossibly high. I felt I did not have the right appearance and was not of mature enough years to gain the respect of some (more powerful) members of the congregation. A number of things added up to a pretty serious breakdown which is when I started branching out in the spiritual sense.

I started looking into things that perhaps a lot of Christians think they shouldn’t dabble in. I started to read some of the books you get in the MBS and New Age shops for example and became interested in some of the eastern mystics and the more modern day mystical writers/thinkers like Eckhart Tolle. I found their messages incredibly powerful and they made far more sense to me (to be honest) than much of what comes from mainstream Christianity. The Conversations with God books are quite breathtaking.

Colin – Yes both of those books have been very helpful in our household too.

Mark – There are a huge number of Christian writers who are inspired by Eastern thought, who I have a huge amount of respect for. Looking at my bookshelf now there are people like Elaine MacInnes, Anthony De Mello, Brother Martin, Bede Griffiths and Richard Rohr, who’s books are awesome. Then there is the Native American/Canadian inspired Oriah Mountain Dreamer’s ‘The Invitation’ which is a wonder, and Richard Carlson’s incredibly helpful his psychological books.

Colin - How did you come to write and publish books yourself?

Mark - One of my friends who ran a retreat in Winford in Bristol asked me if I would run a retreat involving magic. I came up with the idea of putting together a retreat called ‘The Gospel of Falling Down’ which reflected my life to a certain extent, I had perfected the art of falling down in my ministry, but for every fall a little bit of light came through.

My idea for this retreat would be that people could take a good look at their lives and begin to relax and start to be thankful for who they are rather than the usual religious notion that we have got to keep changing, achieving, climbing this ladder. To me it is in the falling from the ladder that we actually find ourselves, always back where we began but with new eyes.

So some of what I did in the retreat was to use magical stories, analogies and illusions that told that tale of people who went on a journey in order to come back and find what they were looking for, right under their feet. The way that they find that is by going out and looking for it elsewhere.

Colin -– That reminds me of the Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.

Mark – It’s the story of the Alchemist, the story of the prodigal son, the story of the Wizard of Oz, it’s in so many mythologies. The weird thing is we have the truth at the beginning of the journey but we can’t see it, and it’s as though we need to look for it in the wrong place in order to come back and find we had it all along.

What I did for that retreat was use a lot magical images to sort of hit home that point and then get people to open up and share those experiences, and it was very powerful, everyone was so open. The illusions and stories enabled people to share of themselves which really helped everyone learn from each other.

That then became the basis of my first book, The Gospel of Falling Down, which I was amazed that a publisher took.

What then happened over the last few years is that I have became more willing to say that magic does not have to be just about illustrating truths, it can also be something that we do not have to explain, so I now use magic to bring people back to a child like state where real magic is possible.

Mind oriented magic puts on hold the left brain, it quietens even the most sceptical mind, and brings it back to that state where anything is possible. I use magic to encourage that part of us that we don’t often listen to, the Wizard within or the voice of wisdom that guides us, and sometimes we just need to get the analytical mind out of the way in order to hear it. The magic works a little bit like a mantra for someone who meditates, and there are times when things happen that neither I nor the people involved can explain, which I find fascinating. It’s kind of ‘spiritual entertainment’ in a way, I’m feeling my way at the moment and it is terribly exciting.

Colin - You mentioned the Wizard, is that when you started thinking about writing another book?

Mark – I was drawn back to re-reading my spiritual journal and I realised that there were two very different voices, there was the wining, defensive and very worried person, always looking to try to please people and try to do his best. This is what I call the little me and is really the voice of the ego, the manufactured self.

The other voice was very calm and was almost in answer to the questions from little me, although both voices were me, but one of the voices was very calm, very mature, and only occasionally shows up, and this is what I call the divine me.

I think this is what comes out in books like ‘Conversations with God’ and other books that have been written like that. It may well be God, or our deeper self, but it is a conversation that I think is in us all the time. So my new book points us to the fact that we know our own answers, but sometimes those answers are so mind blowing we tend not to believe them the first time around.

I thing if more people looked for their Wizard within instead of looking external there would be a lot more peace in the world.

Colin - I think the encouraging thing is that there are many books like yours available for people when they are looking for guidance or new ways of looking at things.

Mark – Another book I love (and one I actually I mention in The Wizard’s Gift) is a real book written back in the 30s called ‘God Calling’. It is an amazing manuscript by two severely broken women who heard this inner voice of wisdom and wrote down their conversations with it.

Colin – Well Mark thank you so much for spending some time talking today, it’s been a great pleasure.

Mark – You’re welcome.

(have a look at Mark’s web site at http://www.magicofsoul.com)

You can also listen to Mark talking to June-Elleni on www.myspiritradio.com
Her show is called Feed Your Mind Change Your Life